Birth control Pills on a pink background
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By Samantha Cooney
November 18, 2016

A woman might decide to skip the pill over concerns about weight gain, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Cynthia H. Chuang, a professor of medicine and public health sciences, and her co-researchers examined survey and demographic data from 1,000 women in Pennsylvania with private health insurance, according to a public release from Penn State. What they found was that women who were overweight (which researchers determined based on the participants’ body mass index) were less likely to use certain forms of contraceptives such as the pill, the shot, the patch and the ring. Instead, they opted for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), which do not contain estrogen, a hormone many women fear may cause them to gain weight. (Most research, however, hasn’t found a link between birth control and weight gain.)

The study, which will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception, showed that overweight and obese women were more likely than normal weight women to choose condoms or no form of contraception at all. Still, 23% of overweight women and 21% of obese women in the study opted for a form of long-acting reversible contraceptives LARCs, such as an IUD, which is one of the most effective forms of birth control. By contrast, only 6% of underweight or normal weight women in the study used LARCs.

“We were actually glad to see that overweight and obese women were at least more likely to choose LARCs because I was expecting to see these women more likely to use non-prescription methods,” Chuang said. “Women may be worried about weight gain when they’re making decisions about birth control, so clinicians need to be aware of that…It could be an opportunity to counsel women about LARCs, which are more effective forms of contraception.”

 

Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.

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